Any surprises in Gov. Tom Corbett's annual budget address were more style than substance. The governor worked hard Tuesday to show his human side and put real faces — through children, students, workers and senior citizens — on the serious issues facing the commonwealth.
The actual substance had been floated for weeks by cabinet secretaries and other officials crisscrossing the state prior to Corbett's formal presentation.
As expected, Corbett reiterated his reasoning behind privatizing the state lottery (more money for senior citizens) and liquor sales (more money for education).
His pension reform plan already sounded familiar, too, since it has been a hot topic of discussion for some weeks and, as Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati indicated Tuesday, a bill was waiting in the wings.
Likewise, Corbett's five-year, $5.3 billion plan to rebuild the state's crumbling transportation infrastructure through lifting the oil company franchise tax cap and other measures no longer sounded new, though dropping the state tax on a gallon of gas by 2 cents was.
But hearing it all together as one package really brings home a major change in Corbett's outlook. With this budget, he laid out the kind of long-term plan for Pennsylvania that too frequently is absent from government. Many of his proposals would lay the foundation now for changes that will take years to fully realize.
Overall, Corbett's 2013-14 budget is business friendly. He wants to reduce the corporate net income tax from 9.99 percent to 6.99 percent beginning in 2015; repeal the corporate loan tax; gradually raise the cap on operating losses to $5 million from $3 million; and do away with unspecified nuisance and out-of-date taxes that hinder growth.
In addition, the budget as proposed would consolidate eight revolving loan funds into one entity to streamline the application process and leverage private dollars to aid business development. The governor also pledges more enhancements to improve workforce development and job matching, supports education, and wants to boost the budget for community and economic development.
Corbett is placing a huge bet on the state's economy improving, however: This budget looks to grow spending by relying on increased revenue from personal income taxes and sales and use taxes — without raising those taxes.
Helping Pennsylvania businesses grow will be critical to that success.
Corbett has given the General Assembly an ambitious agenda for the coming months — but there is no better time. Voters signaled last November they want these changes by returning Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature. Now the governor must unite style and substance to make his vision for Pennsylvania a reality.